Life is a journey. There are many steps, twists, and turns along the way. Some we plan and others just happen. But together, these steps make our journey our lives. In 2011 I was given the opportunity to be a part of the Science of Parenting team. As a family life educator, parent, and grandparent, I found this an exciting step. It’s been a joy to work with Lori as we shared timely topics via the podcasts, blogs, and webinars.
Now another turn in the path takes me to a different role within Human Sciences Extension and Outreach. Janet Smith will now work with Lori to move Science of Parenting forward. I will occasionally respond to blogs because I plan to continue reading and learning.
Parenting is also a journey. While planning is helpful, life with children is full of surprises. Science of Parenting is designed to be an educational support along the way. Enjoy the journey!
The call goes out – help save our music program! When school districts face tough financial times, music is often one department on the table for cuts.
A first reaction may be to focus on arguments like: music is important for a well-rounded education; music is the only thing that keeps some kids interested in school; music teaches kids concentration, coordination, and perseverance; and performances are an important part of athletic events and school functions. Well, that’s all true but then the same could be said about other departments.
You might want to hone in on how music can help children with both reading skills and math. In a nutshell, the researchers who look at cognition, think that participation in music increases both the brain’s efficiency and effectiveness. The strongest studies support the value of music-making in spatial reasoning, creativity, and generalized math skills. Other studies link music education to helping children improve reading skills. Now you are beginning to talk the language that could influence the decision makers.
Sometimes parents assume the role of advocates for their children. And if that time comes for you, it helps to focus on facts rather than only emotions. Has your school system struggled with financing the music department? What has helped keep music a viable part of the school your children attend?
music, parenting, school
“Why in the world did you do that?” “Didn’t you think about what you were doing?” Ok, I’ve heard these words and I’ve said these words. Sometimes kids make bad choices and sometimes parents and adults don’t make the best decisions.
If we ask kids why they make some of the choices they do, responses might be:
- It seemed like the thing to do at the time.
- I just did it. I didn’t think about any consequences.
- Who takes time to think?
- I wanted to be cool with my friends.
- We just wanted to have a little fun.
- I don’t need my parents telling me what to do all the time.
These aren’t exactly what parents want to hear, but let’s face it. Kids will do unwise (even stupid) things as they grow up. That is one way they learn. It is important for parents to help ensure that kids do indeed learn and don’t repeat bad choices.
So how does this work? Well, one important piece is to let kids be held accountable and bear the consequences. Turned in homework late - lost points on the grade. Didn’t do assigned chores – have to miss favorite TV show to catch up. Broke curfew for football team – sit on the bench for a game.
If a child’s safety isn’t compromised, most of the time parents can allow the consequences to teach the lessons of making decisions. How have you responded when your child makes a bad choice?
decision making, parenting, raising teens
It’s decided; your child has a cell phone. So what happens next? My suggestion is this – time for a family meeting to set ground rules. Sit down together and go over how and when the phone will be used. Will there be some whining? Maybe. Will it make a difference? Yes.
Limits are a good place to start. Depending upon your family phone plan, the minutes may be set or unlimited. And even if you have unlimited minutes, do you want your child on the phone all the time? Talk about what happens when he exceeds the set number of minutes or texts. Who will pay for it? Does she know how to keep track? Are there times and places the phone needs to be turned off? Examples might be: classroom, meals, bedtime, restaurants, worship services, while driving (teens).
Now here’s the kicker – you need to follow the same limits. Kids see how their parents use cell phones and will mimic the behavior.
- If I want my grandchildren to carry on a conversation during a meal, I have to silence my phone when I ask them to do the same.
- When I’m driving and my children or grandchildren are with me, I must ignore calls and texts or pull off the road to respond.
- I can’t send texts or post messages after bedtime if I support a rule of “no after hours” phone use.
Think role model! Teaching your child how to use a cell phone is now as basic as teaching him how to make a bed. Perhaps not too exciting but ground rules will help prevent continuous conflict.
What are some of the rules you have in your family around cell phones?
media and kids, miscellaneous, parenting
Getting ready for school in the fall used to mean buying new clothes, some basic school supplies and maybe a new backpack. Today a new cell phone often is at the top of the back-to-school list, but do kids really need cell phones? We know that many kids want cell phones, but not all kids need them. A child should be mature enough to understand how to use the phone safely and be responsible for taking care of it. And whether your child is asking for a first phone or wants to upgrade to the newest version, talk about his or her motivation. Why exactly does he or she need this particular phone?”
Join us this month as we work through the pro’s and con’s of cell phones and children.
Podcast: Play in new window
media and kids, parenting, podcast
Reading Donna’s post last week about the word ‘no’, reminded me of a fabulous program that we have all over the United States (and even internationally)..
Created right here at Iowa State the Strengthening Families Program: For Parents and Youth 10-14 has made a difference in thousands of families in all 50 states and in over 25 countries.
I want to share this quote from the website:
“Parents want to protect their children, but it’s challenging. Youth need skills to help them resist the peer pressure that leads to risky behaviors. Research shows that protective parenting improves family relationships and decreases the level of family conflict, contributing to lower levels of substance use. ”
Sometimes taking the time as a family to participate in programs like SFP 10-14 seems daunting… but if we knew that by participating we could help our teens gain skills that might help them make good decisions when we weren’t around, wouldn’t it be worth it?
Find out more about the Strengthening Families Program: For Parents and Youth 10-14 here .
If you have been able to take part in an SFP 10-14 program we would love to hear from you!
miscellaneous, parenting, peer pressure
choice. choose. select. decide.
When it comes to children and religion who gets the the choice? Who gets to choose, select or decide?
I grew up in a family that had religious rituals like Donna described last week. Religious rituals were always a part of my life. I was so comfortable with religious rituals that when I was a teen I decided that I would ‘change’ where I practiced those rituals. I yearned for more options and activities for teens, so I began to practice down the street with my friends (similar religion, different location). My family supported my decision with the rule that as long as I attended and participated I could go with my friends. It was my choice. I sometimes wonder what I would have done if my parents had said it wasn’t my choice. They were very brave to allow me the decision. I wonder if they were looked at ‘sideways’ for allowing me to select? I wonder if they worried about telling me ‘no’ and feared that I would turn away from religion? Ironically, thirty years later, we all practice at the same place once again, my parents, my family, and my children. I sometimes think about what I would do if my teens asked me to practice elsewhere.
What might you do if your teen wanted to practice a similar religion at a different location? Share your thoughts with us.
family time, miscellaneous, parenting, religion
Spiritual development in children… yep it’s part of their natural development. It’s part of their moral and cultural development. We didn’t just pick this topic randomly. We selected it purposely because just like physical development and social development, it is a part of your child that will continue to grow and develop over time. It’s the part of your child that plays into how they begin to make sense of their world and the people in it. It’s the part of their development that shapes their values and beliefs about their families, friends, communities and nations.
How then can we foster a healthy spiritual development? How can we help to answer their questions about their world in a positive way? How can we nurture values and beliefs and children’s spiritual development? Spiritual and moral development can be a daunting and abstract concept but as I was looking through various resources I came across this poem and thought I would share.
What is Spirituality?
delighting in all things
being absorbed in the present moment
not to attached to ‘self’ and
eager to explore boundaries of ‘beyond’ and ‘other’
searching for meaning
open to more?
Spirituality is like a bird; if you hold it to tightly, it chokes; if you hold it too loosely, it flies away. Fundamental to spirituality is the absence of force.
Rabbi Hugo Gryn
What are ways that you nurture spiritual development in your child?
education, family time, moral, parental relationships, parenting, positive parenting, spiritual
Yes it’s true, children form stereotypes about the aging process and older adults. Often times children may have negative stereotypes based on limited interaction with an older generation. To help children form positive stereotypes of the aging process authors Kaplan and Crocker offer some ways to help children develop more positive ideas about aging.
Kaplan and Crocker share that it is important to do more than just ‘talk’ about or share information on older adults. It is important to share experiences and promote opportunities to engage children with older adults as well. Spending time together allows children and adults to share stories and learn more about each other first hand.
Programs that offer the opportunity for youth and older adults to do activities together are called ‘intergenerational programs’. We would love to hear about intergenerational programs you have had experience with? How has it positively impacted your children and their thoughts about aging?
Click for more information on Age-based Stereotypes
Conflict between human beings happens. It happens between adults, between children and even between adults and children. So how do we learn to fight fair?
An article I found from the University of Texas at Austin gives some great ideas on how to have conflict in a ‘fair’ way.
Here are some of their suggestions:
- Deal with only one issue at a time: Stay focused on only one topic. Focus on that one issue until you have resolved it agree to disagree. Then move to the next issue.
- Avoid accusations: Like Donna talked about last week, use the ‘I messages’ and talk about how it makes you feel. Refrain from using the word ‘you’ as much as possible.
- Avoid clamming up: Get the issue out. When you stop communicating about what the issue is it can’t possibly be resolved. Shutting down or becoming silent doesn’t make the issue go away. Keep talking. If you need to take a break, do so but commit to coming back and finishing the conversation.
For more suggestions read the whole article from the University of Texas at Austin.
Share your ‘fighting fair’ techniques with us here!
parenting, positive parenting, temperament
I want you to know that not everyone is going to like you. I want you to know that you can fail and I will still love you. I want you to know that I am not perfect. I want you to know…
I find myself thinking and saying this phrase a lot. I have two teens and one nine year old that thinks she is a teen. There is so much I want them to know but so much that I don’t always say out loud. Yes, I want them to know, but I also know that sometimes they will ‘hear’ it louder from someone else. What resources can I share with them so they will find the answers I want them to know?
Below are some of the resources I have share with my teens so far. And yes, it was via text, email, Twitter or Facebook. I’ll use any means I can to share the information I want them to know.
I Am In Control
What have you shared with your teen? I would love to know!
family time, friendship, parenting, raising teens, social-emotional
Yes, parents still matter in the lives of their teens. Teens do care about you even though at times you may wonder. And – you’re not done modeling. In the podcast we shared the five basics of parenting adolescents with one being model and consult.
So you might be thinking – give me some specific strategies. The obvious one is to set a good example with your habits – eating, drinking, physical activity, risk taking. That old escape line of “Do what I say, not what I do” really doesn’t cut it with teens. And certainly you can model adult relationships - with employers, friends, partners, and spouses. Your teens will learn from how you interact and treat other people.
Here’s another strategy – answer teens’ questions. It’s ok to express your personal opinions on issues. Your teens may not agree but you are modeling different viewpoints and how to talk with people who take different positions. In our house we had the rule that we could talk about anything as long as people were respectful. Worked pretty well for us and it’s a strategy I continue today now that the kids are adults with teens of their own.
Have you considered that establishing or maintaining traditions is a form of modeling? During the holiday season families observe lots of traditions – some silly, some serious, some sacred. Traditions are often a tangible expression of values. For example, going to the grandparents’ home for a holiday meal and celebration models the importance we place on family. Attending a religious service on Sunday morning demonstrates spiritual values. Buying toys for an Empty Stocking program says we care about those less fortunate than us.
Now you get the picture. Teens still need their parents to provide information, teach by example or modeling, and carry on conversations about relevant issues. That’s a tall order but you are raising teens and these final years under your care are setting them on the path to adulthood.
parenting, raising teens
This week I really began to pay attention to the different ways my family doesn‘t conserve energy. I noticed lights left on, tv’s and electronics playing randomly to themselves, and most noticeably doors left wide open to the outdoors when the furnace was on. One day I even turned the furnace off to see if anyone would notice – and I put on an extra layer of clothing. My teenager responded late in the day with “Why is it so cold in here”. She checked the thermostat and expressed her displeasure. This gave me a perfect opportunity to share the idea from Donna’s blog last week as well as talk with the girls about how we could do a better job of conserving. Luckily I didn’t try this in the middle of winter! HA! But it helped to make a point about all the little things we take for granted.
I was looking for different resources on energy saving ideas to share with kiddos I came upon a couple things that piqued my interest. I have shared them below.
What are some ways that you have shared conserving energy and natural resources with your children?
Ok, I confess. On more than one occasion I decided it was just easier to do a job myself than deal with a kid who didn’t want to run the vacuum or empty the dishwasher. She was busy or tired or just not interested. Never mind that I was also busy or tired or not interested. I think this is one of the biggest obstacles for including children in household chores. They resist and we end up doing the task ourselves because it’s easier. Then we end up feeling like everyone’s personal maid and being resentful.
So how can we get out of this trap? An important piece is to remember that we are teaching life skills. By having realistic expectations and providing guidance, we can get there. One really good rule of thumb is “don’t do things for children they can do for themselves.” Let me give you an example. When a child is young we dress him and tie his shoes. As soon as he is capable we teach him how to dress himself and applaud his efforts to tie his own shoes. The same thinking applies to household tasks. We make the bed for babies and toddlers. But once she can climb in and out of her own bed, she can begin to put the pillow in place and pull up the covers. If we teach children how to do something and continue to offer support, we are on the way to raising responsible kids who can take care of themselves.
Check out Inspire Children to Help with Chores for more practical tips.
chores, miscellaneous, parenting
GREAT QUESTION! How about right now?!
If you look up Children and Chores at www.extension.org you will find several different articles on children helping with household chores. And guess what? They can start right now helping with all kinds of things. Even toddlers LOVE helping to put socks in the basket or towels in the drawer.
Allowing children to help around the house gives them hands on experiences for learning as well as a feeling of independence and responsibility.
It is important to share with the child how you want the task done, let the child do it and then DON’T re-do when they are done. Did you catch that? It’s OK that there is a wrinkle in the blanket or the fork is upside down. Let them know how proud you are of the work they did and keep modeling the way you would like it done eventually. Remember, you probably had a wrinkle in your bed at that age as well.
What are some chores that you have your children helping with? Share with us!
brothers, chores, discipline, family time, fathers, mother, overindulgence, parenting, positive parenting, siblings, sisters